Someone made an assumption about me recently and when I refuted that assumption they asked me outright whether their assumption was correct and that I was as they suspected; very religious.
What does that even mean? What may be religious to one person may not be religious to another. One person may be very strict when it comes to fasting, but take their salat lightly. Another may recite the Quran daily but be a huge gossip. The examples are limitless and putting people into neat categories might be convenient but it is rarely accurate.
I do not like the term very religious and I do not consider myself as such. I see Islam as a religion of moderation, one that urges us to find a balance in all that we do. Balance family time with work; the world, with the hereafter; religious obligations with our physical obligations. We are meant to strive; to always seek to better ourselves, but the beauty of Islam is that living your life the right way is also taking part in religion. Spending time with your family is being religious, helping someone who needs help, volunteering, teaching others, providing for your family, cleaning the environment, discovering a medical cure, inventing new tech that improves lives, in fact anything that you normally do as long as whilst doing those things you follow Islamic principles of fairness, honesty and integrity you are being religious.
Sometimes people spend so much time focusing on the wrong things. That brother’s trousers are too long, he hasn’t grown a beard, her hair is peeking through her hijab, she has non-Muslim friends, etc… Whilst ignoring the fact that we are all flawed and it is our journeys through life that teach us, that mold us and help us grow into better versions (or worse versions) of ourselves.
As a teen one of the stories that made the biggest impact on me was that of two brothers. The first brother decided to go off into the mountains and focus only on praying and seeking Allah’s glory. He left his family in the care of his brother and took off to pray, fast and glorify Allah day and night without any distractions from his family.
It turned out that the brother left in charge of a family in addition to his own was better in the sight of Allah, than the one who abandoned his obligation and did nothing but pray and glorify Allah. Because being a Muslim is about being human, about living in the real world and making the right choices every day. It is not about hiding yourself away from temptation and real life challenges. It is about making mistakes, repenting and doing better next time. It is about struggling with difficult decisions and choosing to take the difficult, less popular path even if everyone is doing something easier and more popular. It’s about wearing a hijab proudly even if you are eyed suspiciously and told you’re being old fashioned, oppressed, ugly and would look much better without it. It’s about saying proudly that you are a Muslim and you don’t accept interest even though you could use the extra bucks. It’s about feeding your kids halal even though it’s not easy to get. It’s about helping those who if tables are turned would oppress you not because you want their thanks or their pity if tables are turned but because you seek the pleasure of your lord.
So no, I am not VERY religious, I am a Muslim. Like Shaykh Zakir Naik said, what is Shia? What is Sunni? The Blessed Prophet SAW did not come to us with those religions, he came to us with Islam so all I know is that I am a Muslim.
So if you must label me, and categorize me, berate me or celebrate me, call me by one name and one name only: Muslim. Because I am a Muslim and I am proud of that.